Posted by: aboutalbion | August 3, 2012

Rule of Law (4)

The last two explanatory points from Tom Bingham’s 2006 Cambridge lecture on “The Rule of Law” are these.

Seventh, “adjudicative procedures provided by the state should be fair”.  This point begins with the assumption that judicial activity should be in open court.  He notes the US saying that “democracies die behind closed doors”.  Bingham then moves on to refer to what are sometimes called the “laws of natural justice”; that a defendant must have an opportunity to be heard, must be informed of the case against her/him, must be informed of any material collected by the accuser that is helpful to her/him, must have adequate time to prepare her/his defence, and must be assisted from public funds if the case necessitates professional advice and representation which are beyond the means of the defendant.  He refers to the additional principle that applies to those accused of criminal conduct, namely, the presumption of innocence until guilt is established by due process.

Eighth, “the rule of law requires compliance by the state with its obligations in international law, the law which whether deriving from treaty or international custom and practice governs the conduct of nations”.  In this section of the lecture, Bingham traces the history of this aspect of “the rule of law” over the last hundred years.  He cites European leaders in the early part of the last century who pursued military aims despite knowing that such actions were of dubious legality.  He considers the difficulties that legal advice available to the UK government played in the 1956 Suez crisis.  And he concludes with references to fairly recent US presidential statements that “America and the world must support the rule of law” as it supplants the rule of the jungle.

[Bingham, Tom (2006) The Rule of Law. [Sir David Williams Lecture to the Centre for Public Law, University of Cambridge]. 16 November.]

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